In a chat with baseball insider Tom Verducci, Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey said that he wants to pitch at a heavier weight and lessen the intensity of his bullpen sessions in order to hold up better when he comes back from Tommy John surgery.
By the time Harvey tore his elbow ligament in August, Verducci says that Harvey was down to 220 pounds after beginning the season at 230 pounds. When he gets back on the mound, Harvey would like to be stouter, "like a Roger Clemens" at around 240 pounds.
As for the bullpen sessions:
"I used to throw in the bullpen like it was a game. Really, it would be just like I was facing a hitter trying to strike him out: fastball on the corner, curveball for a strike, bounce a curveball to see if I can get a chase, and then at 1-and-2 ... here it comes! My best fastball upstairs, 97-98 [mph]. I'd be breaking off hard sliders. I realize I don't need to do that now. My fastball is going to be there. My slider is going to be there. I don't need to throw it with max effort in between starts to keep it."
So while the Mets were carefully monitoring Harvey's innings and pitches while he was in games, he was throwing with maximum effort in between starts. Harvey officially threw 178.1 innings in 2013, but if he was throwing in the bullpen like he did in the games, a more realistic figure could be much higher than that.
Given the stud pitcher's personality, it shouldn't be surprising that he wants to return to a major league mound in August. That seems reckless, especially considering that Harvey is supposed to be a big part of the Mets' future.
"Of course, I won't do it unless I'm cleared to do it," he said, "but I want to pitch before the year ends. I want to make five, six, seven starts this year. I asked [the training staff], 'If I want to come back in August, when do I need to start throwing off a mound?' They said June 10. So that's what we have penciled in right now. That's the plan."
If Harvey pitches in August, it would be just 10 months removed from his October surgery. That would be one of the fastest Tommy John recoveries in recent memory. Verducci notes that Edinson Volquez sat out just 11 months between August 2009 and July 2010, and that was considered a remarkably quick recovery. According to the revered Dr. James Andrews, who operated on Harvey, the average recovery time from Tommy John surgery is 11.6 months.
So why does Harvey want to pitch in 2014 so badly?
"I just want the peace of mind," he said. "I want to go back out there and know I still have the stuff to strike out major league hitters. And I want to know that when I shut it down at the end of the year, I'm just like everybody else shutting it down. I don't want to go through all this work and wonder all winter where I am. I want to be just like everybody else when this season ends and the next one starts."
Getting back on a mound might give Harvey peace of mind, but as for fans and the Mets' front office, that's a different story. Hopefully Harvey won't do anything this season that jeopardizes his long-term health.